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[Size][5]Will Copyright Law Stop You From Working On Your Car In The Near Future?[5][/size]
Privacy group warns tinkering under hood could violate DMCA
http://autos.aol.com/article/will-c...=maing-grid7|main5|dl21|sec1_lnk3&pLid=572844


Plan on repairing or modifying a car in the garage this weekend? You might want to first consult a copyright lawyer.

In a development that illustrates just how much cars have become mobile computers on wheels, a privacy group is warning mechanics and car enthusiasts that tinkering with the computers that run dozens of vehicle components, without a manufacturer's approval, may constitute a copyright violation.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit watchdog, says the Digital Millennium Copyright Act may prohibit modifying the code that runs these small computers, known as electronic control units (ECU). The organization is asking the US Copyright Office to exempt hobbyists and home mechanics from the law. In the petition, the EFF asks the office to eliminate the legal risks posed to vehicle owners who are "engaged in a decades-old tradition of mechanical curiosity and self-reliance."

Once every three years, the Copyright Office holds hearings to consider whether certain activities should be exempt from the DMCA's Section 1201, which restricts people from circumventing technological measures that control access to "protected works." No dates have yet been set, but a ruling is expected by mid-2015.

"The general principle at stake is that people who own a device are the ones in control of what it does, rather than be constrained to use it only in the way a manufacturer wants," says EFF staff attorney Kit Walsh. "The idea of ownership, in a way, is under threat when the law prevents you from altering a product in any way."

Needed: Access To ECUs

In the past, it may have seemed preposterous to lump a gearhead tinkering with his car under the same digital umbrella that catches people who jailbreak their phones. But today, dozens of ECUs run almost all vehicle functions, including the performance of the engine, steering and brakes. These units are run by computer code that automakers consider proprietary.

Both professional mechanics and everyday hobbyists increasingly need electronic access and expertise in ECUs and the software that runs them.

One activity, for example, that falls into a gray area under the DMCA law would be modifying an ECU in a manner that boosts engine performance or, conversely, fuel economy. Another questionable activity may be using extra memory on an ECU to create or customize a specific feature in a car's telematics unit.

At present, there's no known case in which an automaker has pursued litigation against an individual under the banner of a DMCA violation. At worst, it seems a car owner runs the risk of voiding their warranty by altering these codes. But that could change.

Automakers Could Consolidate Market

As automakers enhance this software, technology will soon allow them to sell upgrades and customized features to individual customers on an individual basis. Want that extra 40 horsepower? You can buy it on a memory stick. Desire a specific ring tone for your car? Download it from an OEM's website.

As this capability becomes readily available, these ECU remapping services could become a lucrative revenue stream for automakers. All the more reason, potentially, for OEMs to consolidate their rights to the ECU codes and lock out competitors.

For the aftermarket, this is worrisome territory. Many businesses already offer these ECU remapping services, which are also known as "chipping" and "tuning," depending on the particular enhancement offered.

The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) says it partners with automakers to provide access to the code that allows them to create vehicle-personalization products. "Our hope is that we can continue to work with the OEMs so that the aftermarket manufacturers are able to create the best possible products for consumers," said Mike Spagnola, vice president of relations and product development for SEMA.

Interpretation Could Have Broad Impact

Implications go beyond niche aftermarket products. Security researchers studying automotive cyber threats, whose out-in-the-open work has prodded carmakers to better protect their cars, could see efforts to publish detailed findings curtailed.

Hypothetically, the EFF says, the likes of General Motors, Honda and Ford could supply ECU codes only to repair companies they contract with – or steer that business entirely to authorized dealerships. Car owners' power to choose where they want their car repaired could be diminished.

"That's exactly what can happen, and we've seen the DMCA used to extend monopolies before," Walsh said. "It gives manufacturers the power to control secondary markets by leveraging the copyright law, if it doesn't include enough of a safety valve to allow for lawful uses."

The Copyright Office has granted prior exemption requests during the course of previous reviews of the DMCA, which Congress passed in 1998. If an exemption is granted, it must be reviewed every three years, according to the office, which says that 44 requests for exemption have been filed this year.

The Auto Alliance, a Washington DC trade group that represents the interests of major automakers, did not have an immediate position on the petition, according to a spokesperson.

**Full Article At Link**
 

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As if that will stop anyone...
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I think more than anything, it will be used to keep people from fighting claims of warranty voiding by OEMs.


Or is it just another "patriotic" watchdog group banging pots over nothing trying to draw a link to something that wasn't intended nor actually applicable?
 

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more likely it WILL stop Bullydog or EDGE from making tuners as FEW can "code" there OWN tune NOW and could conceivably also PREVENT the sale of HARDWARE that ALLOWS you to LOAD a code on to the ECM
VCR's and cassette recorders are/were still available even though radio stations and TV networks didn't want you to record things.

Computers and internet connections are legal and anyone can download pirated movies, TV shows, or music. Anyone can watch bootleg sports game streams online.

Smoking marijuana is illegal (in most states) but you can still buy rolling paper, bongs, bowls, pipes, etc.

Anyone can jailbreak their iPhone, or root their Android device. Or unlock their GSM phone.

Anyone can still Mac OS X on a Windows machine, which does violate Apple's end user agreement, but there are tons of forums regarding how to do it
 

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Fascinating argument, but a legitimate one. The coding on an ECU is intellectual property; should tuning companies be able to use that proprietary coding and make a profit off of it? If I bought an LG phone, made some changes to the firmware, and then sold those changes on the market, that would be a blatant copyright violation. I am surprised no automakers have pursued this avenue yet, most likely out of the backlash that consumers would have. The enthusiasts modifying their cars are a small, but vocal group. I am not sure removing tuning companies from the market (which are small potatoes in the grand scheme of things) would make any business sense. That said, I don't think Bob down the street has to worry about working on his car on the weekends. This article is dramatizing that aspect of things for the views.
 

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How would you identify that a tuning shop took GM's (or whoever's) programming, modified it, then sold it? Couldn't they just argue they wrote every bit of it?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
All Star

Fascinating argument, but a legitimate one. The coding on an ECU is intellectual property; should tuning companies be able to use that proprietary coding and make a profit off of it? If I bought an LG phone, made some changes to the firmware, and then sold those changes on the market, that would be a blatant copyright violation. I am surprised no automakers have pursued this avenue yet, most likely out of the backlash that consumers would have. The enthusiasts modifying their cars are a small, but vocal group. I am not sure removing tuning companies from the market (which are small potatoes in the grand scheme of things) would make any business sense. That said, I don't think Bob down the street has to worry about working on his car on the weekends. This article is dramatizing that aspect of things for the views.
That's the thing, the article states that many tuners work with the OEMs, so I don't think they'd be the target at all. I think where this would come into play is if say, Ford bought a Z/28, and all of a sudden, the new GT350 has "Flying Car Mode".
 

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The issue has been discussed within car companies for 15 years - I was involved in them. They don't really care how individual car owners modify their cars. The issue is whether the car manufacturers will responsible for warranty repairs caused by the modifications - or even even having to go through the grief of doing so. I do not believe the "hot prom" companies are going to step up and pay for repairs. Also, there are the state and federal requirements making the car manufactures responsible for meeting emissions requirements after the vehicle is sold.Those regs assume the ECM is tamper proof.
 

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Yes, but companies cannot load Mac OS X on clones and sell them. They've tried and been shut down. That's more similar to the issues that Bullydog and Edge face.
Hmmm true...didn't work out for too long with Power Computing, Daystar, and Motorola :D
 
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